Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mad Mix: Beyond PleasureDome

Before we go any further, here are the song lists from my current batch of mixes.

All right. So, you’ve got all of that other stuff taken care of, now what?

Well, the fun part, of course: Putting the mix together.

My own process for this is simple. I sit down in front of my CD collection, and start pulling out albums that I feel 1) I haven’t overused or aren’t generally over-exposed, 2) still feel they offer something to listen to, and 3) fit into the grand scheme of my other requirements.

I usually end up with more options than I’ll end up using on the mix, but that’s okay. Quite often, songs that I’m fairly certain will end up on the final list just will not fit the flow, etc. so other options are necessary.

About the first item on this current agenda, it’s kind of a sticky situation.

I mean, as much as I’d love to place Soul Coughing’s Super Bon Bon on a mix, I just can’t do it. The same goes with the bulk of their catalog: Screenwriter’s Blues? Great damn song, but odds are the folks on my list have either heard it numerous times, own the album, or aren’t into it. And, while making people appreciate music they may not have given a chance before is a goal (in case they like it), and a hazard (in case they don’t), of creating mixes, there are some risks that are just not worth it.

Other artists that are currently verboten from my collection: Morphine, Radiohead, Tom Waits, White Stripes, U2, REM*, Magnetic Fields**, Beck, Beastie Boys, Cake, PJ Harvey, and a few others.

(*the exception this time around, as they are on the current set of mixes)
(**even though no two of their songs sound the same, there is such a thing as one’s over-reliance to an artist, as every artist on this list encourages)

You’ll note that most of these artists are male, this is simply because I don’t do too much experimenting with female vocalists. The ones I have, though, I’m fiercely loyal to. I take pride in the fact that not one second of PJ Harvey was used on these mixes, because I looooove her. Most of the other female artists I do use are very close to being placed on the verboten list, which is scary, so I need some suggestions to replace them. Bye, Bjork, I hope to use you again soon!

Here’s the thing: I was talking to a good friend of mine (check them out, Seattleites) about mixes in general, and he started stressing how glad he was that I had some familiar songs on the current batch. While he appreciated the new songs (himself a proponent of this aspect of any mix), the familiar songs served as welcome pockets of comfort that would allow him to venture further into the unfamiliar terrain.

So, like everything else I’ve been saying here, it’s a judgment call. Think about the song you’re going to put on there. Yes, Pink’s Get the Party Started is a fun song, but does anyone need steady access to it? Does anyone need to hear it ever again?

Another aspect of song selection I wanted to write about is one of content.

Be careful what you choose: This is especially true if the mix you’re making is for someone you’re crushing on and you don’t want to tip your hand.

Though, by the very act of making a mix, you’re pretty much letting them know, so, either be bold or be timid, but if you’re going with timid, be fucking careful (i.e.—stay away from Peaches).

Song lyrics are weighted things, and very open to interpretation. Take a look at the lyrics to a hidden track I once used:

I know sometimes the world is wrong
I know sometimes I do believe
I know sometimes the world is wrong
They’ll be wrong until you’re next to me

Romantic or creepy? You be the judge. Either way, you’re probably right.

Along about here is where I start thinking like my uncle, and try to come up with a story that could be told using the song selection to create a cycle. Let’s take a look at the “Side 2” list from the mix CD Him:

1) Mi VidaManu Chao
2) We’re Going to be FriendsWhite Stripes
3) Hot for TeacherVan Halen
4) Jenifa Taught Me De La Soul
5) Twist and CrawlEnglish Beat
6) Rump ShakerWrex ‘n’ Effex
7) One is the Magic Number Jill Scott
8) TemptationTom Waits
9) You Look Like RainMorphine
10) I Think I Need A New HeartMagnetic Fields
11) Say You WillMaktub

You’re basically looking at the development of a person, starting with innocence (the White Stripes), to first crush (Van Halen), to deflowering (De La), development of kinks (the Beat), to carefree womanizing (all I wanna do is zoomazoom zoom zoom in the boom boom). At this point, the female voice (the only one on this side) is introduced, and then you can tell where the rest of it goes…

Lastly, we come down to the areas of pace and flow. It’s in this aspect that making mix-CDs is better than making mix-tapes, simply because replacing music is that much easier.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind those who’re old enough to remember what erasing an error on cassette would mean. And, often, you’d just plow ahead on to the next song, and not check to see if one song would flow into the other until you were done with the mix. Frustrating as hell.

What I’m advising here is to take a listen to how an album goes from one song to the next, and to try to emulate that in as varied a way as possible. Personally, I tend to make mixes that ebb and flow, and would climax somewhere in the middle (this would happen twice on a cassette based format).

The general idea is to keep things flowing, going from fast to slow to medium, soul to rock to rap to emo, etc.

This is “Side 1” from the first WvM disc:

1) Women Vs. Men -- David Byrne
2) King of NY -- Dan the Automator/Kool Keith
3) Strobelite Honeys -- Black Sheep
4) Baby Doll -- N.E.R.D.
5) I'll Wait -- Dirtbombs
6) There Is No There -- The Books
7) Siboney -- Ruben Gonzales
8) Cannibal's Hymn -- Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
9) Maybe Your Baby -- Stevie Wonder
10) Electric Village -- Add N to X

Now, what we have here could be tighter in terms of flow, but it does the job admirably. First we have the declaration of the theme (thank you, Mr. Byrne), and then something of a meandering story. Not much of a climax for this side (it actually is delivered in the midst of the second side, on the Madlib track), but it does have something of a slow build. Though the Books’ track is kind of jarring, it stands on its own, and serves as an interesting bridge between the Dirtbombs and the Ruben Gonzales.

In short, it’s a good simmer to boil side.

Well, that’s about as much as I can muster on the topic of mixing. The only thing left to say is that, unlike cassettes—where wasted tape feels like a lost opportunity, CDs are so cheap, and cost effective, that you don’t have to worry about filling up the space. Just because you could place 80 minutes of music on a disc, doesn’t mean you should. The result is kind of diluted.

But then, I probably think too much about these things.


At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this series muchly. And you wants some more female singers? I could hook you up with some names, baby. -rood1


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